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Red Cross Takes to Blockchain to Boost Economy in Third World Countries

Red Cross Takes to Blockchain to Boost Economy in Third World Countries

Red Cross Takes to Blockchain to Boost Economy in Third World Countries

  • Red Cross societies of Norway, Denmark and Kenya launched blockchain-backed “local currencies” as a two-year scheme to mitigate the problems related to hard cash.
  • Testing has already begun in Kenya and Ethiopia. The projects aim to reach 320,000 users in two years.

In the rural areas of Kenya, the citizens face a very common problem associated with traditional finance and hard cash. Another persistent problem in third world countries is the lack of easy access to the services of a bank. Amid these problems, the Red Cross implemented a two-year plan to furnish the ‘disaster-prone areas’ with smooth money management and financial freedom – all with the help of a smartphone.

In the new plan, credits are automatically recorded on the ledger and people can spend the earned credits on daily commodities and services.  Adam Bornstein, who works on alternative financing for the Danish Red Cross, said that after testing in parts of Kenya and Ethiopia, the program has already reaped many benefits by enabling credits from work, sales or aid infusions to be utilized for trade and expenses.

The program will be extended to the other parts of Kenya and could also be rolled out in Malawi, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Papua New Guinea, with an aim to extend to 320,000 users within a span of two years.

According to the report, as part of the project, the Red Cross will also aim to improve the utilization of the USD 1 billion a year in aid distributed as cash and vouchers.

While blockchain is being leveraged to reshape the face of the economy in these countries, local banks are still skeptical about the development. However, Red Cross experts believe that the transparency of the technology will transform aid delivery. Consultant Gil said that it took 15 years for organisations “not to be scared of giving people money” instead of food and other items during disasters. “I hope it doesn’t take another 15 years to understand we need to support local economies instead of giving people cash,” she added.

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Could Land Registry on Blockchain End Ownership Dispute Woes?

Could Land Registry on Blockchain End Ownership Dispute Woes?

In today’s world, nothing screams louder about transparency, trust, and immutability than the blockchain. Perhaps these qualities may now be considered more of a cliché on the internet, they still hold true when it comes to using the technology as irrefutable proof of ownership.

The blockchain is now an inspiring landmark in estate management, as it is increasingly being adopted as a platform for land registry, property ownership records, as well as a secure, trusted property sales and management system, thereby eliminating distrust flaws in the sector.

A great number of blockchain startups are addressing one of the direst situations in estate management – land disputes. Broadly speaking, the lack of proper deed-titling afflicts a host of physical asset classes such as lands, houses, and cars – a problem thought to be worth about USD 20 trillion globally. The good news is with blockchain-enabled registry hope could be restored to billions of people whose property may at some point become casualties of bad socio-economic infrastructure.

Although many government policies and institutions such as the United Nations have made attempts to provide lasting solutions to stem the tides of corruption and disputes in land claims, the fact of the matter remains: policies are instituted by humans and they can thwart or manipulate them for personal advantages. This makes such systems rather unreliable despite sunken huge investments.

A developing world perversion

For most people living in developing countries, proof of land ownership can be a real pain, as these geographical locations are continuously taunted by poor economic conditions, and the land registry sector isn’t left out. Numerous cases of land disputes involving ownership claims with only word-of-mouth historical accounts to back them have led to several social degradative vices as well as continuous tension on land acquisition and property security.

Just some days back, a land-related crises led to the deaths of nine people in India, when a claim to a deed purchased two years ago resulted into a shootout.

Sonbhadra: Casualties reported after firing between two groups over a land dispute in Ghorawal today; District Magistrate Ankit Kumar Agarwal says, “We can’t tell exact numbers as of now. 9 persons brought to District Hospital. Some are injured & some are dead.” pic.twitter.com/QDeL1QylFK

— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) July 17, 2019

In India, land disputes are mostly attributed to conflicting laws and with the majority of cases ending up in court:

“Land disputes account for the largest set of cases in Indian courts – 25% of all cases decided by the Supreme Court involved land disputes, of which 30% were related to acquisition; and surveys suggest that 66% of all civil cases in India are related to land or property disputes.”

This brings to question whether algorithmic governance – where code is law – could play a significant role in reducing the number of land-disputes that make it to court, with technologies such as smart contracts easing trades among parties, thereby instituting transparency and disintermediation of trust. However, for the already existing cases of land disputes, without prior legal documents backing up claims, judgments are more likely to be based on emotion rather than fact and truth.

In general, systemic fault-lines within government structures make it rather impossible to implement efficient land administration. In other words, “many constitutive and regulative institutions suffer from massive functional deficits” and, therefore, constitute fundamental cracks to theoretically foolproof land administration policies. And that’s just a part of the problem – policies lacking sufficient empirical infrastructures.

Unwitting victims

About a year ago, a report by Reuters reflects the dire situation of land ownership in Kenya, where;

“Two-thirds of Kenya’s land is customarily owned by communities without formal title deeds, making it easy for corrupt individuals to sell or lease the land without the communities’ knowledge.”

A Kenyan victim of double ownership of a piece of land Joseph Njuguna shared his story with Reuters of how he had been displaced of his alleged rights to a piece of land he purchased more than half a decade back and was suddenly overthrown by another citizen whose claim wasn’t backed either by any document. He told the news outlet:

“I asked for the title and he couldn’t produce it. But he still claimed the plot was his.”

Another story told by Humphrey Kitala a Kenyan who bought half an acre for USD 30,000 through what seemed to be a legitimate estate management agency, only to discover a month later that he was a victim of double ownership – with title deeds on both ends.

In Ghana, the situation might be worse. It was reportedly disclosed by the land commission that “more than 80% of landowners lack title 60 years after independence”, with land ownership loosely held by oral agreements.

In a more elaborate view, with two-thirds of lands in Africa owned communally, the exposure to land-related fraud is inevitable as a cross-section of the population is void of title deeds. And in the case where one exists, authenticity is an accompanying problem in most cases.

In other countries like Brazil where disparate history books exist for land registry and the situation is further complicated with about 3,400 private firms who check and register land ownership, further plunging the hideous system into a downward spiral of double allocation.

Blockchain land registry to dissolve land disputes

Situations such as those of Njuguna and Humphrey as well as the “corrupt cartels [who] often make entire files disappear so that they can illegally acquire and transfer lucrative plots, from public forests to school playgrounds” have inspired startups and real estate firms like Land Layby to adopt blockchain technology to seamlessly address the fraudulent acts involved in land registry.

In Ghana, Bitland seems to be doing a pretty good job in confronting the woes of land disputes and aims to “unlock trillions of dollars in locked capital”.

In June, Cyrela Brazil Realty, a giant in the real estate business in the country opted for blockchain-based land registry. Meanwhile, In Georgia, developments towards blockchain-based land registry have been ongoing for a while now, and it seems the adopters tout the abilities of the blockchain to allow them to cut the cost of property rights registration, aid in real-time auditing of the registry, as well as add a layer of security to the registry data.

With other parts of the world explore opportunities of blockchain-based land registry at a fast pace, it only seems logical for developing nations of the world to adopt what works when it comes to land registry, and there’s no denying the fact that blockchain is position to revolutionize the estate industry with credibility based on its immutability and trust infrastructure. Sometime last year, the UK’s HM Land Registry launched a project based on the distributed ledger technology to revolutionize the process of land registration in the company, to hopefully gain faster, simpler and cheaper land registration process.

Having blockchain-based solution isn’t enough, and alone it becomes inoperable. It requires adoption, integration and adequate understanding of the working parts.

 

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New York State Announces Crypto Task Force

_New York State Announces Crypto Task Force

New York State has become the first to initiate a task force to examine cryptocurrency and how it should be regulated.

The bank’s committee sect of the New York state legislature voted in favor of progressing a bill that would authorize a digital currency task force back in May of last year. The board confirmed their backing for a task force that would study the effects of the implementation of cryptocurrencies on the state’s financial markets.

Crypto Task Forces are becoming a common method for jurisdictions to discuss and analyze how cryptocurrencies should be integrated into current financial systems. The UK, South Korea, Dubai, and Kenya are amongst countries announcing task forces in 2018. The planned task force for New York state will become the first in the US.

NY state governor Andrew Cuomo, signed into law the ‘Digital Currency Study Bill’ (A8783B/S9013) this week, but no report will be forthcoming until as late as December 15, 2020, so any legislature emerging from the task force is far from imminent. The main focus of the report is said to focus on tax law and market transparency and the board will include representatives from the tech sector, academia, institutional and private investment and blockchain business. The state’s proactive stance towards the cryptocurrency was illustrated by the released statement:

“New York leads the country in finance. We will also lead in proper fintech regulation. The task force of experts will help us strike the balance between having a robust blockchain industry and cryptocurrency economic environment while at the same time protecting New York investors and consumers.”

The industry was clearly encouraged by the announcement, with Executive Director of Tech: NYC, Julie Samuels commenting that the announcement of the task force demonstrates how New York state,  “is leading the way in studying and understanding these technologies to ensure they can thrive in a responsible and effective way,”

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Head of Opposition Party in Nigeria Promises Crypto Initiatives If Elected President

The former Vice President of Nigeria and leader of the country’s main opposition has spoken out in favor of more positive legislation for the cryptocurrency.

People’s Democratic Party’s leader Atiku Abubakar has said that if he is elected to run the country in Nigeria’s next general elections, he plans to launch progressive blockchain initiatives and produce a “comprehensive policy on blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.”

A new policy would also ensure that students would be required to learn about blockchain and cryptocurrencies from an early age, beginning at the primary school level, this education would then follow through to university level.

The current situation in Nigeria has seen its central bank (CBN) warning the public against cryptocurrencies due to concerns about the unreliability of exchanges and market volatility. Under the current government, the Electronic Payment Practitioners Association of Nigeria (E-PPAN) warned about a growing possibility of fintech businesses offering blockchain services being driven overseas unless both the Nigerian government and the Central Bank of Nigeria can offer clarification on its view towards cryptocurrency.

E-PPAN is asking government regulators in the country for clearer guidelines to drive the industry forward. The Bitcoin Exchange Guide claims that the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emifele has done little to encourage the growth of cryptocurrency; investors continue to be reluctant owing to the government’s lack of guidelines.

Nigeria should be looking to overseas for regulation, according to E-PPAN member Michael Kiberu, calling for regulators to look to countries such as Uganda, Switzerland, Kenya, and Japan, where cryptocurrency guidelines are clear and operate with legal status while creating a healthy flow of capital into the financial sector.

71-year-old Abubakar says a government led by his party after the February 2019 election will change all this. He promised a favorable legislation and countrywide initiatives to promote blockchain technology. He also promises to ensure government departments take measures so that Nigeria can adapt to these new technologies.

Lady Victoria Walker, CEO of the United Digital Currency Reserve Foundation, has recently stressed that the understanding and deployment of Bitcoin can kickstart the financial growth in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.

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Binance Off To Flying Start In Uganda With 40,000 Users In First Week

Binance has stepped into Uganda with a flourish as 40,000 new users signed up to the exchange in the hope of bypassing the Ugandan Shilling (UGX).

Many citizens of African countries are unbanked, either by choice or due to complicated prohibitive rules which make it hard to open an account. Uganda is no different, with a recorded 3/4 of the population without any form of conventional banking.

This is Binance’s first fiat-crypto exchange with UGX, the primary fiat currency and comes less than a month after the company acquired an EUR bank account in Malta, with more exchanges to come, according to CEO Changpeng Zhao. Binance’s enigmatic boss clearly realises the potential of Africa as a new investment hub due to the unbanked nature of much of its population:

“Uganda is a really interesting situation, only 11% of the population has bank accounts. It’s both a challenge and an opportunity. So it may be easier to adopt cryptocurrency as a form of currency instead of trying to push for bank adoption”.

Africans have been clever in dealing with financial barriers, and using cryptocurrency is increasingly becoming a go-to way in order to sidestep banking restrictions or weak state currencies. Corruption is also another factor never far from the surface in some African economies often necessitating the need for a clever approach by locals in order to conduct their everyday business.

Recently, neigbouring Kenyan Distributed Ledgers and Artificial Intelligence task force chairman Bitange Ndemo said that that government should consider tokenizing the economy to deal with “increasing” rates of corruption and uncertainties-such is Africa’s increasing faith in crypto ahead of local fiat currencies.

Wei Zhou, Binance’s chief financial officer, suggested that one reason for the exchange’s surge of clientele in the first week is the fact that it is so easy for Uganda’s unbanked to access the system, commenting, “They [users] just have to have money within the mobile payment system. They don’t have to have bank accounts.”

The country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, said recently that he welcomed and embraced blockchain technology in Uganda since it provides full transparency, and added that he was aware how businesses were being negatively impacted by what he called “secrets and deceit.”

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Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain, New Movie Out This Week

The first film to be fully funded by and distributed on blockchain is on release this week and the subject is blockchain itself.

Documentary filmmaker Alex Winter, known to some for his role in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, has moved from the frivolous to the relevant in the years following his appearances in a handful of popular teen movies in the 1980s.

His latest offering, ‘Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain’, is out on general release in the US on 26 October and puts DLT under the microscope. This is not Winter’s first foray into the world of the internet following his 2015 documentary Deep Web about the dark web marketplace Silk Road, which focused on cryptocurrency use on black markets. It is also the subject of a play, ‘Silk Road: How to Buy Drugs Online’, by English playwright Alex Oates which has been playing at theaters in the UK this year.

Trust Machine is reviewed as being an honest appraisal of where blockchain is today, focusing at one point on current UN action to integrate blockchain into the food program supporting Syrian refugees in refugee camps.  Kenya and Venezuela, two countries seriously suffering from fraud and mismanagement at a governmental level, also get coverage in Winter’s evaluation of blockchain and its broad sphere of use.

Since last year, the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed cryptocurrency-based food vouchers to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan, bypassing bureaucracy and getting aid to where it’s needed. The new project initiated by the WFP and UN Women was announced last month and will support the UN Women’s “cash for work” program currently running at both camps.

In a fight against rampant voting fraud in Kenya, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairman has now tabled a detailed potential blockchain solution as providing security for all presidential candidates, allowing them to access and verify the results of elections.

Winter takes a positive approach to his subject, stating:

“Naysayers have two groups: one says all of it is BS, and a scam, and a fraud, and then a slightly more nuanced group says a lot of it is scams, but the verifiable ledgers are a natural evolution of the internet. Some folks believe blockchain will save the universe. I don’t agree with the group that thinks it’s bullshit. They are uneducated.”

The film’s primary focus is to feature both the trials of developing nations, particularly where blockchain is changing the lives of the disadvantaged, and to measure the overall impact that DLT could have on the financial sector and on food supply chains. As for the future, Winter maintains:

“If it happens, it will be slow. Some will be blunt and disruptive like Uber, I don’t see a revolution imminent that will compensate artists, or mirror banks and governments. Too much of that is based on greed and power dynamics that aren’t going to change overnight.”

It is interesting that Winter has chosen Trust Machine as a title for his latest film. Many users at every level from multinational to the individual have cited the element of “trust” as blockchain’s greatest attribute, because of its transparency and reliability in creating irrefutable records of transactions.

 

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Crypto Lessons and Roast Goat in This Kenyan Restaurant, All Paid in Bitcoin

“Eat at Betty’s” is the word in Nyeri, Kenya, as not only can you pay in crypto, but you can hang around for a tutorial afterwards.

At the foot of Mount Kenya about 150km (90 miles) outside the capital, Nairobi, Betty’s place cooks a fantastic barbeque, known to locals as “nyama choma” and if your Swahili is lacking, it is usually roast goat served with kachumbari salad and ugali, washed down with local beer.

The goat may be standard local Kenyan fare, but the mode of payment certainly isn’t. Owner Beatrice Wambugu has gone crypto, something not common in these parts, happy to take Bitcoin and Dash rather than the usual cash or card. It’s the way to go she says, arguing “since the world is becoming more global, my place is also becoming a global restaurant.”

In fact, Betty’s is really flexible when tourists arrive at her place, “I attract different customers from different parts of the world, whichever coin they have. As long as it’s a viable coin we accept it,” she says.

Ok, so she hasn’t done a roaring trade in crypto till receipts, with, so far, only about 30,000 Kenyan shillings (£230, $300) in sales from about 20 people. But, she has another plan to make up the numbers; crypto lessons. Every Sunday Beatrice runs cryptocurrency tutorials at Betty’s to spread the word on how to empower locals towards a new way of doing things. She says:

“I’ve set aside one day where I can teach my customers. Whoever asks about cryptocurrencies: ‘How does it work? What is Bitcoin?’ I train them.” At my place, it’s ‘nyama choma’ and ‘nyama Bitcoin.’ The restaurant is expanding, having taken over a nearby two-story hotel in just over a year since opening.

Kenya is a difficult proposition when it comes to opening a business due to a high level of local corruption. Recently, Kenyan Distributed Ledgers and Artificial Intelligence task force chairman Bitange Ndemo said that the government should consider tokenizing the economy to deal with “increasing” rates of corruption and uncertainties. James Preston of SA Crypto sees Bitcoin as a way of “banking the unbanked” a term now familiar with many on the African continent, referring to Africa’s 350 million with no access to traditional banking.

“There’s been such a history of poverty in Africa that so many rural communities are yet to be developed with normal banking infrastructure,” he told the BBC.

The new task force chairman Bitange Ndemo, speaking at an Information and Communication Technology Ministry (ICT) stakeholders meeting agrees with that perception and argues:

We must begin to tokenize the economy by giving incentives to young people to do things which they are paid through tokens that can be converted to fiat currency.”

Betty’s goat dish is on the right track.

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Kenyan Crypto Task Force Calls for Tokenized Economy to Fight Fraud

A Kenyan government task force has called on ministers to consider tokenizing the economy to clamp down on corruption.

The Kenyan Distributed Ledgers and Artificial Intelligence task force was established earlier this year to focus on blockchain and how the technology could be utilized to improve outcomes in the public sector. The group included local blockchain startups, experts, researchers and members of Kenyan regulatory bodies.

The task force’s chairman, Bitange Ndemo, speaking at an Information and Communication Technology Ministry (ICT) stakeholders meeting with the private sector, has suggested that increasing rates of corruption at the public sector level could be thwarted by reducing the amount of hard currency in circulation by using a token system. He argued:

“We must begin to tokenize the economy by giving incentives to young people to do things which they are paid through tokens that can be converted to fiat currency.”

It was also felt by the task force that a tokenized economy and the issue of a digital currency equivalent to fiat could also be used to fight unemployment. The recommendations are being forwarded to the government by Kenya’s ICT Principal Secretary Jerome Ochieng.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Kenya has called on blockchain as a solution to fighting corruption in the country. A recent plan has been looking at how to fight voter fraud in Kenya’s elections.

The northeast African nation of Kenya has suffered claims of election rigging in nearly every election since the institution of multi-party democracy in 1991. The leader of the opposition party Raila Odinga just last year rejected two of the presidential polls; the first was annulled by the Supreme Court on the grounds of substantial electoral irregularities.

A statement from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati detailed a potential blockchain solution as providing security for all presidential candidates and allowing them to access and verify the results themselves.

The latest proposal is unlikely to be warmly received since the Central Bank of Kenya issued a circular to all of the country’s banks earlier this year warning them against cryptocurrency use, due to its lack of centralized control and its association with illegal activities.

 

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Digital Currency Ecosystem in Africa Grows, But More Connectivity Needed

A new report by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has outlined that Africa will need to invest more in internet connectivity in order to maintain the continent’s current pace of cryptocurrency adoption.

The popularity of Bitcoin in Africa continues to grow as a result of the presence of cryptocurrency exchange platforms. There are benefits to cryptocurrency ownership that are unique to the African continent, many devolving from the widespread unstable economic conditions.

Owning and trading in cryptocurrencies is a trend on the rise in countries across the globe. The markets in the USA and Asia have typically gained media traction, while the phenomena in Africa is left largely uncovered. Moreover, a large number of recognized exchanges don’t offer services in Africa, whereas, some recognize the significant marketplace that includes many Africans who do not have access to formal bank accounts.

If Africa is to be the next boom as many experts are currently predicting, it will need to make major changes to its telecommunications infrastructure across the continent, as indicated by the ITU report. The report shows that to connect the majority of Africans to the internet will cost as much as $450 billion.

Currently, governments on the continent spend significantly less than the global average with most countries spending three times as much on connectivity. Low education levels and the high cost of internet capable devices have been cited as contributing factors to the current slow uptake of the internet in many areas of the continent.

The uptake of digital currency has been prolific in Africa over the past two years, with many countries taking on the advantages that currencies such as Bitcoin offer over local fiat currencies. Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe have all shown a significant increase in crypto adoption.

Coindirect co-founder Stephen Young says that Africa has unique problems and these must be considered in any startup plan for cryptocurrency adoption on the continent. He feels that current exchanges don’t take these into consideration. In terms of African fiat currencies, Young identifies their systemic volatility, insecurity and lack of governance as factors that the crypto space need to take on board: He argues:

“If Africans are to benefit from the cryptocurrency revolution we need make it easier to buy, store and trade cryptocurrencies. As Africans, it is our responsibility to help build the infrastructure and we need to be a part of the revolution.”

It is clear that this “infrastructure” depends on connectivity. ITU reveals that out of the 52 percent of the world’s population who remain unconnected to the internet, the majority of these live on the African continent.

One country is attempting to address this disparity. Rwanda has managed to achieve a 90 percent broadband spread with its nationwide rollout of optical fiber throughout a larger part of the country. The project began in 2009 in order to boost broadband services and attract foreign business investment.

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Kenya Enlists Blockchain to Fight Allegations of Electoral Corruption

Kenya’s electoral agency plans to utilize a blockchain voting system in its reform efforts to promote transparency.

The blockchain system in the works would be used to offer real-time voting results to avoid any perceptions of misconduct including tampering with the results. A statement from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati detailed the potential blockchain solution as providing security for all presidential candidates and allowing them to access and verify the results themselves.

The northeast African nation of Kenya has suffered claims of election rigging in nearly every election since the institution of multi-party democracy in 1991. The leader of the opposition party Raila Odinga just last year rejected two of the presidential polls; the first was annulled by the Supreme Court on the grounds of substantial electoral irregularities.

In 2007, chaos ensued after the disputed election results, leaving approximately  1,100 people dead, as well as displacing around 600,000 before a coalition government was finally agreed upon.

A blockchain-backed voting system could be a valuable tool in promoting a peaceful democracy in Kenya, bringing an end to any lingering doubts about the legitimacy of results.

Blockchain solutions in elections

Ukraine has also been testing the benefits of utilizing blockchain in its voting procedure. The Central Election Commission of Ukraine has been experimenting with the NEM blockchain, with the commission commending the immutability of hosting elections on the blockchain, as well as the improved security benefits of the decentrally-hosted data.

While it remains in the trial stages, the head of the country’s voter registry at the commission Oleksandr Stelmakh has been providing much positive feedback on his social media pages.

An Australian start-up also has plans to institute blockchain voting technology in countries such as Indonesia that are struggling to preserve the sanctity of elections in their emerging democracies.

The platform designer Jamie Skella said: “If you utilize blockchain to submit a vote in the same way that a Bitcoin transaction can’t be reversed, it can’t be changed, it’s a trustworthy process based on a system, which is not owned by any one entity, not by an organization, or a government or an individual.”

 

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